Startled by a sudden movement, the bird flew off, hovered for a while, and then landed again. Confucius said: “The hen pheasant on the mountain bridge – How timely! How timely!” Zilu clasped his hands and bowed towards the bird, which tweeted three times and flew away. (1) (2)
No matter how well tuned in you are to the rituals of everyday life, it’s always good to escape from them with a visit to the countryside and enjoy the natural world. There’s no telling what random delights you might come across!
This article features a translation of Chapter 27 of Book 10 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 10 here.
(1) There is a lot of controversy about the meaning of this oblique passage. It is not even clear from the text that it Confucius who speaks to Zilu (though most scholars and commentators assume it is). I can’t help wondering whether a bored scribe tacked it on to the end of Book 10 for his own amusement or to wake up the reader from their stupor after reading endless chapters on ritual. It has nothing to do with the previous chapters in the book, and the text is either so corrupt or so ambiguous that it is virtually impossible to fully understand or translate. Naturally, there are some commentators who see some deep philosophical meaning in this random encounter between Zilu and presumably Confucius with this hen pheasant out in the mountains, but I struggle to find it.
(2) You can read more about Zilu, one of the most loyal followers of Confucius, here.
I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Yilan, Taiwan.